Ship of Fools: Gilmore Place Free Presbyterian, Edinburgh, Scotland


imageShip of Fools: Gilmore Place Free Presbyterian, Edinburgh, Scotland

Beautiful psalm singing in an atmosphere of absolute misery

Read the full Mystery Worshipper report here


Comments

  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Thank you so much for this report.I have wanted for a long time to attend service there and even tentatively arranged with a church of Scotland minister for us to go together, neither of us have so far dared to enter the building..
    About twenty years ago one of the principal members of this church (who was the Lord chancellor of England) attended the funeral of a distinguished Scottish Law Lord which happened to take place in a nearby RC .church. The Lord Chancellor was severely upbraided by the church authorities which caused a schism and led to the foundation of the Associated Presbyterian Churches. I have to say that before this I had never heard of the Free Presbyterian Church and would have confused it with the Free Church of Scotland.
    The interesting thing about this church is that attendance at one of their services would let one see what a typical Scottish Presbyterian service would have been like 170 years ago before the introduction of harmoniums and hymns.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I am ploughing through a document entitled Statement of Differences between the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the other Presbyterian Churches in Scotland. It contains many gems, but very relevant to the MW report is this:

    The visible Church in Scotland is awash with Liberalism, Romanism, Pentecostalism, Arminianism, and Neo-Calvinism. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland seeks to maintain a testimony to the following biblical doctrines, among others.

    It is little wonder to me that with this and many other similar comments, the MWer found an atmosphere of absolute misery.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Reminds me of a sermon I once heard by the now Archbishop of Sydney ( then Bishop of Parramatta) on the 3 evils of feminism, relativism and the contraceptive mentality in contemporary RC thought….
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Reminds me of a sermon I once heard by the now Archbishop of Sydney ( then Bishop of Parramatta) on the 3 evils of feminism, relativism and the contraceptive mentality in contemporary RC thought….

    We have a bishop who only ever preaches on two topics, the Real Presence and red button issues. Never on social justice or the environment.
    Its totally dispiriting.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Yes, Catholic friends of ours had hoped that the then Bp of Broken Bay (the diocese here) would be appointed. but he went to Melbourne instead.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Let's not wander too far away from the reporter's observations on the service in question.

    @Amanda B Reckondwyth
    Lead Editor, Mystery Worship
  • kingsfoldkingsfold Shipmate
    I have to say it rather reminds me of a similar report for St Jude's, free Presbyterian Church in Glasgow.
  • kingsfold wrote: »
    I have to say it rather reminds me of a similar report for St Jude's, free Presbyterian Church in Glasgow.

    Yes, very similar (apart perhaps from the much longer sermon at St Jude's!).

    I would guess that, with all due respect, and given the nature of their ecclesiology etc., most Free Presbyterian Church services are going to be as alike as the proverbial peas-in-a-pod.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    kingsfold wrote: »
    I have to say it rather reminds me of a similar report for St Jude's, free Presbyterian Church in Glasgow.

    Their church's patron saint seems....apt.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    I hope it's not a "hopeless cause" to try to keep the discussion on topic.

    @Amanda B Reckondwyth
    Lead Editor, Mystery Worship
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited July 20
    Comparing the 2, and hoping that I'm within the Hostly guidance, this observation:

    The emphasis on sin and man's depravity and unworthiness infusing every single part of the service

    from the Glasgow service is much as picked up in the report of the Edinburgh one. Considering the strong role played in each by the Psalm, it's strange that none of the joy in so many of them seems have found its way into the congregation.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Hard to keep the thread on topic when the bottom line is misery
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    the singing of the Psalms in the Free Presbyterian Church as indeed in the Free Church of Scotland,along with their various offshoots from schisms is something very special.
    It is in many ways like a cappella Gregorian chant in the RC church.or like the singing of the Psalms liturgically in the Orthodox church. In all of these communities the singing of the Psalms was and is a major part of the liturgical music.
    When I have visited communities of the Free Church of Scotland (NOT THE SAME as the Free Presbyterian Church) the Precentor ( the man who begins the Psalm singing) would only sing the first opening line,whereas it seems that here,as was once widespread in the Church of Scotland the Precentor would start each line and then be joined by the congregation.
    What does the Precentor do in an Anglican cathedral ? I'm sure I've seen that title..
    Catholic churches,Anglican churches and most Protestant churches have moved on and introduced musical instruments as well as hymn singing.
    The metrical versions of the Psalms still sometimes used in Presbyterian churches as well as other are not the same thing.
  • I'm intrigued - and a bit worried - by the stuffy atmosphere. The Covid guidance for Scottish places of worship talk about "ensuring there is good ventilation – open windows when indoors", although it's stressed less than here in Wales. Were any windows or doors left open?
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Who knows? But perhaps the goid folk need to keep the winds of change from blowing through the windows and doors
  • Pangolin GuerrePangolin Guerre Shipmate
    edited July 25
    On the topic of Psalms... I had heard of this, and a few years ago found a couple examples on youtube which were done by a BBC (?) documentarian, I believe, on the islands, and I found it electrifying - out of a chaos of sound comes these strange harmonies, reverberations, and micro-tonal differences. I'd love to experience the Psalms live. I'm sure that I'd be quite moved. I'm not Presbyterian (though my mother's family was by tradition), and my only experiences are with the Canadian Presbyterian Church, which, while hardcore, is not so hardcore as described above. There is only one Church of Scotland edifice in Toronto, and while it strikes my decadent Anglican sensibilities as leaning toward the austere, I have been told that they are the Presbyterian equivalent of High Church. My more recent visits have been to St Columba's Pont Street, in London, and they're a relatively modern, cheery lot. I quite like their Rev'd Angus MacLeod- very pleasant man and a perceptive preacher.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    On the topic of Psalms... I had heard of this, and a few years ago found a couple examples on youtube which were done by a BBC (?) documentarian, I believe, on the islands, and I found it electrifying - out of a chaos of sound comes these strange harmonies, reverberations, and micro-tonal differences. I'd love to experience the Psalms live. I'm sure that I'd be quite moved. I'm not Presbyterian (though my mother's family was by tradition), and my only experiences are with the Canadian Presbyterian Church, which, while hardcore, is not so hardcore as described above. There is only one Church of Scotland edifice in Toronto, and while it strikes my decadent Anglican sensibilities as leaning toward the austere, I have been told that they are the Presbyterian equivalent of High Church. My more recent visits have been to St Columba's Pont Street, in London, and they're a relatively modern, cheery lot. I quite like their Rev'd Angus MacLeod- very pleasant man and a perceptive preacher.

    I remember when I was studying for my B.Mus decades ago a lecturer played us some Gaelic psalm singing and usked us to guess which culture it came from. Nobody had a clue.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S3XDunMj2Y
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited August 6
    I listened to some of that link, and I can see why nobody knew which culture it came from.

    There just seemed nothing familiar to use as a benchmark, IYSWIM.
    :flushed:

    (Mind you, if I understood Gaelic, that would have made quite a difference!).

    BTW, how much of the service MWed was in Gaelic?
  • BTW, how much of the service MWed was in Gaelic?

    I would assume little or none, given the location.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I missed Forthview's question wondering what a Precentor did in an Anglican cathedral. In days of old in Sydney, the Precentor was in general charge of the cathedral music, setting hymns, consulting with the choirmaster and so forth
  • Gee D wrote: »
    I missed Forthview's question wondering what a Precentor did in an Anglican cathedral. In days of old in Sydney, the Precentor was in general charge of the cathedral music, setting hymns, consulting with the choirmaster and so forth

    Still the case here in the UK, as far as I know. S/he often officiates at Choral Mattins and/or Evensong, at least in our local fane.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    I missed Forthview's question wondering what a Precentor did in an Anglican cathedral. In days of old in Sydney, the Precentor was in general charge of the cathedral music, setting hymns, consulting with the choirmaster and so forth

    Still the case here in the UK, as far as I know. S/he often officiates at Choral Mattins and/or Evensong, at least in our local fane.

    Referring back to the Youtube of Gaelic psalm singing, the man who leads the singing by starting each line of the tune is called the Presenter.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    In Scotland he is usually called the Precentor,though that would only be by those in the know.Most Scottish people will have at best a very vague knowledge of terms used in the Free Church of Scotland and its various offshoots,such as the Free Presbyterian church.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    In Scotland he is usually called the Precentor,though that would only be by those in the know.Most Scottish people will have at best a very vague knowledge of terms used in the Free Church of Scotland and its various offshoots,such as the Free Presbyterian church.

    I stand corrected. But I saw one of them talking about in another Youtube clip what hid did and it very much sounded like presenter with a "z" sound in the middle.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    The Free Church of Scotland count just under 6000 full members with about another 2000 adherents (who attend but are not necessarily committed and who would not be admitted to Communion) The Free Presbyterian Church has within its presbyteries world wide 1200 members.
    At the time of the Disruption and formation of the Free Church in 1843 music and psalm singing was not an issue but shortly afterwards the Church of Scotland introduced gradually 'kists o' whistles' (harmoniums) followed by organs and choirs and the famous ?Church Hymnary.
    With the return of many of the congregations of the Free Church to the Church of Scotland in the late 1920s the remnant of the Free Church,now known popularly as the 'Wee Frees' and most certainly their 19th century offshoot the Free Presbyterians limited any singing to the Psalms of David (as translatedn in the Authorised King James version of the Bible)
    Until the 19th century all singing in the Church of Scotland would have been psalm singing either line by line with the precentor or the metrical forms of the Psalms.
    Precentor was one of the few terms retained from the preReformation liturgical language.

    Until Vatican 2 in the RC Church at the singing of Vespers each psalm would be begun by one person and then taken up by the others. Few RCs would attend Vespers but almost all would be aware of the pre Sunday Mass ceremony 'Asperges me' where the priest would begin this psalm and the choir,or occasionally the congregation would continue with'Domine,hyssopo et mundabor........ (Sprinkle me,Lord,with hyssop and I shall be made clean)
    Plus ca change,plus c'est la meme chose ! (the more things change the more they remain the same),but it's not surprising that few people,certainly in a mainly unchurched world would be unaware of the term 'Precentor'
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    The Free Church of Scotland count just under 6000 full members with about another 2000 adherents (who attend but are not necessarily committed and who would not be admitted to Communion) The Free Presbyterian Church has within its presbyteries world wide 1200 members.
    At the time of the Disruption and formation of the Free Church in 1843 music and psalm singing was not an issue but shortly afterwards the Church of Scotland introduced gradually 'kists o' whistles' (harmoniums) followed by organs and choirs and the famous ?Church Hymnary.
    With the return of many of the congregations of the Free Church to the Church of Scotland in the late 1920s the remnant of the Free Church,now known popularly as the 'Wee Frees' and most certainly their 19th century offshoot the Free Presbyterians limited any singing to the Psalms of David (as translatedn in the Authorised King James version of the Bible)
    Until the 19th century all singing in the Church of Scotland would have been psalm singing either line by line with the precentor or the metrical forms of the Psalms.
    Precentor was one of the few terms retained from the preReformation liturgical language.

    Until Vatican 2 in the RC Church at the singing of Vespers each psalm would be begun by one person and then taken up by the others. Few RCs would attend Vespers but almost all would be aware of the pre Sunday Mass ceremony 'Asperges me' where the priest would begin this psalm and the choir,or occasionally the congregation would continue with'Domine,hyssopo et mundabor........ (Sprinkle me,Lord,with hyssop and I shall be made clean)
    Plus ca change,plus c'est la meme chose ! (the more things change the more they remain the same),but it's not surprising that few people,certainly in a mainly unchurched world would be unaware of the term 'Precentor'

    The usual RC term for the one who kicks off the psalms is cantor. It is still used when any form of responsorial music is sung. It was a thing I used to do as a teenager before Vat 2 (the first few notes of the antiphon quietly to the celebrant who would then repeat them aloud and the entire first verse of the psalm - there was associated choreography of course) and our parish still has them for the responsorial psalm where they sing the verses - from the lectern; I insist on that as the psalm is part of the proclamation of the Word. We also use them for "echo" Mass settings.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Thank you,Alan 29, for your words. It made me look up, as perhaps I should have done earlier,the derivation of 'precentor' It is indeed derived from 'cantor' via 'praecantor' and 'precentor' - the one who sings before the others.
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    Church of Scotland Gaelic congregations have precentors too. If you want to hear Gaelic psalm singing in Edinburgh in non Covid times then Greyfriars has a Gaelic congregation.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I insist on that as the psalm is part of the proclamation of the Word.

    Very definitely so - to our mind it's not in the same category as a hymn.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    We aren't going to stray very far from the specifics of the service that was reported on, are we?

    @Amanda B Reckondwyth
    Lead Editor, Mystery Worship
  • ...I'm not Presbyterian (though my mother's family was by tradition), and my only experiences are with the Canadian Presbyterian Church, which, while hardcore, is not so hardcore as described above. There is only one Church of Scotland edifice in Toronto, and while it strikes my decadent Anglican sensibilities as leaning toward the austere, I have been told that they are the Presbyterian equivalent of High Church.

    I am not sure that The Presbyterian Church in Canada can generally be described as 'hardcore' or even close, though a recent MW may not be typical (https://shipoffools.com/mystery-worshipper/central-presbyterian-cambridge-ontario-canada/). "Only one Church of Scotland edifice in Toronto", doesn't sound quite right, as I don't think there would be such a place, the PCC itself being the lineal descendant of the Kirk, and well represented around Hogtown. If you are thinking of St Andrew's, yes - they like a little traditional formality, but if you called them 'high church' they'd likely fall about themselves laughing.

    (A bit off topic - sorry - but I couldn't see where else to park it).
  • . "Only one Church of Scotland edifice in Toronto", doesn't sound quite right, as I don't think there would be such a place, the PCC itself being the lineal descendant of the Kirk, and well represented around Hogtown.

    A little googling suggests the descriptor may be accurate, as St Andrew's (just) predates the formation of the PCC and was therefore constructed for what was then the Church of Scotland (the Kirk does still have a handful of congregations outwith Scotland, spread across Europe and the smaller former colonies).
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Please limit this discussion to the service at Gilmore Place Free Presbyterian that was reported on. Miss Amanda is not going to ask you again.

    @Amanda B Reckondwyth
    Lead Editor, Mystery Worship
  • Back to Gilmore Place, then, and it strikes me that an attendance of 30 for a Thursday evening prayer meeting (which I suppose might be the equivalent of a mid-week Eucharist in other denominations) is really quite good.

    Do we know, I wonder, how many attend on a Sunday? I'm assuming that it's a gathered congregation, but it would be interesting to know - and also how many children/young people attend...
  • I suspect I’m being particularly dense, or perhaps am woefully under-caffeinated, but what precisely do you mean by assuming it’s “a gathered congregation”? Does that just mean in-person rather than online during Covidtide?

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I suspect I’m being particularly dense, or perhaps am woefully under-caffeinated, but what precisely do you mean by assuming it’s “a gathered congregation”? Does that just mean in-person rather than online during Covidtide?

    Sorry - by *a gathered congregation*, I mean one that comes from all parts of the city or town, and not just the local area in which the church happens to be.

    Hope that makes sense!
    :wink:
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Given that the nearest FP church to Gilmore Place is in Glagow I would say that the congregation will be a 'gathered' one. Though one should remember that strict FPs would not wish to travel far on the 'sabbath'
    There is an FP congregation in Odessa,Ukraine and also in Santa Fe,Texas.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited August 17
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I suspect I’m being particularly dense, or perhaps am woefully under-caffeinated, but what precisely do you mean by assuming it’s “a gathered congregation”? Does that just mean in-person rather than online during Covidtide?

    Sorry - by *a gathered congregation*, I mean one that comes from all parts of the city or town, and not just the local area in which the church happens to be.

    Hope that makes sense!
    :wink:
    Ah, it does. Thank you!

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I suspect I’m being particularly dense, or perhaps am woefully under-caffeinated, but what precisely do you mean by assuming it’s “a gathered congregation”? Does that just mean in-person rather than online during Covidtide?

    It means the congregation is not from the immediate surrounds of the church, but gathered from a wider area. In Sydney for example, Anglican churches that are not Sydney Anglican have parishioners that might travel 20 or more km, they are gathered from that distance. There are probably very few Free Presbyterian anywhere in Scotland, so their congregations will have been gathered in.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    There are probably very few Free Presbyterian anywhere in Scotland, so their congregations will have been gathered in.

    Except Lewis & Harris, which have 5 congregations.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Not much else to do on the Sabbath in those parts
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited August 20
    Written but withdrawn
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